Being John Malkovich

"Excellent"

Being John Malkovich Review


Unrivaled as the most inventive and wildly conceptual movie of 1999, there's just no way to explain "Being John Malkovich" without it sounding too weird to be for real.

The daring feature debut of music video and commercial director Spike Jonze, the film stars a disheveled John Cusack as an unemployed, master puppeteer and social malcontent who discovers a portal into the mind of actor John Malkovich when he takes a peon filing job at an esoteric office on the 7 1/2th floor of turn-of-the-Century Manhattan high-rise.

See? I told you.

The portal opening is a pint-sized door hidden behind a filing cabinet, which Cusack crawls through and winds up a tourist inside Malkovich's head -- seeing the world through his eyes for 15 minutes before being blasted out the other side of this metaphysical rift and landing in a ditch beside the New Jersey Turnpike.

This very dark, off-the-wall comedy follows the increasingly erratic Cusack's attempts to exploit and control Malkovich like one of his eerie marionettes, using the portal to impress a sexy, heartless co-worker (Catherine Keener), who in turn begins to manipulate Cusack and his plain Jane wife (played by Cameron Diaz in a frizzy wig and no make-up), who have both become smitten with her.

In "Malkovich" Jonze creates an off-kilter world, reminiscent of a Terry Gilliam movie. Case in point, the 7 1/2th floor -- a sliver of reality limbo, with five-foot ceilings and a quizzical office staff -- which can only be reached by halting the building's elevator and crow-barring open the doors.

The picture is jam-packed with such oddities, from Cusack's disturbingly grim and hollow-eyed marionettes (which he uses to act out exacting fantasies about Keener) to sympathetic Diaz's menagerie of stray animals (she brings home sickly monkeys, iguanas, ferrets and parrots from her job at a pet store) that populate their dingy basement apartment.

And it only gets stranger after Keener and Cusack start selling trips through his noggin for $200. Keener soon finds and seduces John Malkovich. Then both Diaz and Cusack begin stepping inside him so they can be a party to taking Keener to bed, leaving Cusack feeling unloved and Diaz in a sexual identity crisis.

It isn't long before the Malkovich (playing himself with astute self-mockery) catches on that something is badly amiss inside his mind, follows Keener to the 7 1/2th floor and enters the portal himself, entering what is probably the weirdest, creepiest, funniest vision of unleashed subconscious ever put on film.

The always-enjoyable John Cusack is prophetic here as the mousy, miscreant puppeteer who, after a few trips through the portal, learns to manipulate Malkovich as if he has him on a string, struggling for control over his body (Malkovich hilariously tosses himself around like a rag doll and channels Cusack with adroit precision) and soon trying to take over his life.

But there are others who want inside the actor -- permanently -- including Diaz (now obsessed with having Keener to herself) and the boss in Cusack's office, who it turns out knew about the portal all along and has been using it to hop from body to body as a form of surrogate immortality.

Spike Jonze -- who cut his teeth on innovative TV spots (Levi's "Tainted Love" spoof of "ER") and music videos (Weezer's "Buddy Holly") -- deftly navigates the abundant irony and symbolism in "Being John Malkovich" to mold a crafty, one-of-a-kind film that is at once uncanny and sublimely side-splitting.

I'm dying to tell you more, but if I don't shut up I just know I'll give away everything and I don't want to spoil it. Destined for well-deserved cult status along side such creepy-comedy masterpieces as "Brazil" and "Harold and Maude," "Being John Malkovich" is one of those brilliant movies that's best discovered with its curious surprises intact.



Being John Malkovich

Facts and Figures

Run time: 112 mins

In Theaters: Friday 3rd December 1999

Budget: $13M

Distributed by: Gramercy Pictures

Production compaines: Gramercy Pictures, Propaganda Films, Single Cell Pictures

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 93%
Fresh: 114 Rotten: 9

IMDB: 7.8 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as John Horatio Malkovich, as Craig Schwartz, as Lotte Schwartz, as Floris, as Dr. Lester, as Maxine Lund, as Woman in Elevator, as Derek Mantini, Reggie Hayes as Don, as Guy in Restaurant, as Charlie, as Derek Mantini's Assistant for Emily Dickinson Puppet, as Himself, as Himself, as Christopher Bing

Contactmusic


Links


Advertisement

New Movies

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Movie Review

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Movie Review

After the thunderous reception for J.J. Abrams' Episode VII: The Force Awakens two years ago,...

Daddy's Home 2 Movie Review

Daddy's Home 2 Movie Review

Like the 2015 original, this comedy plays merrily with cliches to tell a silly story...

The Man Who Invented Christmas Movie Review

The Man Who Invented Christmas Movie Review

There's a somewhat contrived jauntiness to this blending of fact and fiction that may leave...

Ferdinand Movie Review

Ferdinand Movie Review

This animated comedy adventure is based on the beloved children's book, which was published in...

Brigsby Bear Movie Review

Brigsby Bear Movie Review

Director Dave McCary makes a superb feature debut with this offbeat black comedy, which explores...

Battle of the Sexes Movie Review

Battle of the Sexes Movie Review

A dramatisation of the real-life clash between tennis icons Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs,...

Shot Caller Movie Review

Shot Caller Movie Review

There isn't much subtlety to this prison thriller, but it's edgy enough to hold the...

Advertisement
The Disaster Artist Movie Review

The Disaster Artist Movie Review

A hilariously outrageous story based on real events, this film recounts the making of the...

Stronger Movie Review

Stronger Movie Review

Based on a true story about the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, this looks like one...

Only the Brave Movie Review

Only the Brave Movie Review

Based on a genuinely moving true story, this film undercuts the realism by pushing its...

Wonder Movie Review

Wonder Movie Review

This film may be based on RJ Palacio's fictional bestseller, but it approaches its story...

Happy End  Movie Review

Happy End Movie Review

Austrian auteur Michael Haneke isn't known for his light touch, but rather for hard-hitting, award-winning...

Patti Cake$ Movie Review

Patti Cake$ Movie Review

Seemingly from out of nowhere, this film generates perhaps the biggest smile of any movie...

The Limehouse Golem Movie Review

The Limehouse Golem Movie Review

A Victorian thriller with rather heavy echoes of Jack the Ripper, this film struggles to...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.